Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pitch Wars Prep #1: Get Your Manuscript Ready!

Who's excited for Pitch Wars???!!!

If you don't know what Pitch Wars is, it's a contest in which writers submit a query and the first chapter of their completed book in the hopes of snagging a spot with a mentor in a two-month process that culminates in an agent round. (More details here.) I was a mentee in 2015 and I'm so excited to now be a middle grade mentor! To help and encourage all you Pitch Wars hopefuls out there, I've created a series of blog posts with tips on getting yourself and your manuscript ready to submit (because you should definitely, DEFINITELY submit). And since you can't enter Pitch Wars without a book, that's where we're going to start...

Pitch Wars is open to any writer with a finished manuscript. But it's important to note that there's a big difference between a first-draft manuscript and a multi-draft, revised and edited manuscript. It's not enough to have a story that makes it from the opening sentence to "the end." You want all the words in between to be at their best.

"But—!" you say. "Isn't that the point of Pitch Wars? Aren't you supposed to help me fix mistakes and make my book better?"

Yes and no. 

While mentors aren't looking for perfection, we are looking for preparedness. We want to help you take your novel to the next level, help you learn new skills, and come out with a manuscript that will — hopefully — catch the eye of the agents participating in the agent round. But teams have just two months to so. Which means a short window of time to discuss and make the revisions and edits that will give your manuscript that extra sparkle and shine. So yes, Pitch Wars will help your book be its best, but you'll have a much better chance of being selected as a mentee if you've done the proper prep work.

What does that mean?

It means you've gone through multiple passes — a second, or third, maybe even fourth draft — paying attention to good storytelling methods, checking your spelling and grammar, ensuring you have strong characters and a well thought out plot. This not only gives you a stronger story that will catch a mentor's interest, it also tells prospective mentors that you understand, and are willing to put in, the hard work that comes with creating a solid book. 

Revisions can be a lengthy process, and one that continues through every step of your writing career. My Pitch Wars manuscript went through several drafts and revisions before I entered it in Pitch Wars last year. I'd sent it to several CPs (critique partners) and taken their comments into consideration. I was confident that I had done my best to prepare my entry. And when I was selected as a mentee, my amazing mentor, with her fresh eyes and excitement for my story, had new ideas and suggestions to help make it even better. And when that revised version snagged me my agent, my agent had a few more suggestions for making it EVEN BETTER. The point is, multiple drafts and edits and revisions and are a way of life for a writer. Whether we like it or not.


There are TONS of resources out there to help you get your manuscript ready for submission. Pitch Wars creator Brenda Drake's blog, the Pitch Wars Mentor blog Writing With the Mentors, and the 2015 Pitch Wars Mentee Blog To the Shelves are great places to start. There you'll find tips for everything from setting and voice to action and tension. If you're looking for CPs and/or Beta Readers, check out local writing groups (your local library might host one), connect with other writers on social media (#PitchWars is great for this!), put the call out on Twitter and check out other hashtags like #amwriting, #amrevising, and #CPMatch to find others who write in your age group and genre who are looking for partners.

Now for the pep talk...

It may seem overwhelming. You may be questioning your sanity and your decision to enter this contest (and be a writer in general), but your story is worth the work and extra effort. And the really cool thing? The writing community is a family. We're here to cheer you on and support and encourage you as you turn your messy words into a beautiful book. I'm so excited to read your submissions this summer, and I know the other mentors are, too. YOU CAN DO IT and trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Looking for more tips? Check out Part 2: The Query Letter.

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